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Raising Kids

I have been bottle raising our kids for some years now, and my method has been gradually changing as I find better and better ways of raising kids. As a summary - I bottle feed the babies, but raise them with their mums. That way, they are very friendly, tame and affectionate, I know how much the mum is making and regulate how much the baby is getting, unlike almost any other 'natural' method which includes the mum having her baby with her.

Here is my main plan:
I attend all births, sleeping out in the kidding pen with the pregnant does if they are looking close to kidding. When she goes into labor, I look after and pat her, talk to her and calm her, take photos and supply yummy stuff (grain, hay etc). I also keep the kidding pen clean and dry, assist where needed, and then dry the kids, milk the doe and bottle feed as much colostrum to the baby/babies as they want. By the time they are dried, full of colostrum and happy, with all yucky stuff, soiled towels and sacks removed, the mum given clean water, grain and hay, photos taken, all the rest of the colostrum milked out, some offered to the mum, the rest divided between a clean bottle in the fridge for the next feed and a clean bottle in the freezer for spares, it is at least one hour after birth - normally around three hours.

Just before I take the colostrum away, I offer the babies a bit more to make sure they are fully stoked up. About two-four hours later I check on them, and offer them some more colostrum. If they are looking up and about or at all interested in drinking from their mum, I put a barrier (quite low, normally under 2 feet tall) across a corner of the pen and the kid(s) goes in there. The mum can lean over and lick and talk to the baby, just as though the barrier wasn't there, but the baby is unable to drink from the mum. After a few days, when the baby is stronger, they are allowed out in a large pen or yard. If the baby is strong and bouncy enough, and following it's mum closely enough, they can go out with the herd then. Otherwise, they go in a large yard during the day and in the small/kidding pen overnight until the baby is following properly and won't get lost.

As soon as they are going out during the day and it is working well, the mum gets milked in the milking shed instead of on the floor of her pen, and then by about a week after the kidding, they stay out with the other goats overnight instead of being locked in their special pen (a kidding pen). By the time the baby is 1.5 weeks old, they are out with the herd, mum getting milked at milking time along with the others and baby comes in to be fed grain and milk at each milking - twice a day. They stay on that routine for the next five months, and then the baby goes onto milk once a day and grain twice a day.

At six months old the kid is weaned and goes on to just grain twice a day, and then over a few days he or she goes onto grain once a day at milking time.

 

With bottle feeding from birth, it should be quite often for the first few days, although most strong, healthy kids can be on 2 feeds a day by a week old. I give the kids all they will drink for the first few days, with two-four hour intervals. Say if they are born in the very early morning (3am or so) I would dry and feed them as much as they will drink, write down all info, feed/water their mum, sort out my bed, and by that time the kids (or more often, one of them) will want another drink. I feed them again, wash the teat if it has gotten hay stuck to the colostrum, and get to bed around 6am. Then I would feed them at 6:30-7:00am, before I go to do my chores, and then come back at 9:00 when I have finished my chores. I normally check on them between 10:30-11:00am, but if they are laying down I will leave them until lunch time (or just before - 12-12:30pm) and see if they want a drink. Their next feed would be at 2-3pm, with a check at 4:30pm and another feed at 6-6:30pm. After that, I would probably go and feed them at 8:30-9pm if they wanted some more, and check on them at 10pm. Then I would sleep in my own bed (if there were no more does near kidding - otherwise I would sleep out with both does and the kids and feed them during the night if they wanted it) and feed them at 5-6am the next morning, depending on when I woke up.

(note - the first day or two, the kids often alternate at their feeds - one or two will be hungry at one feed and not the next, while another kid or two will be uninterested the first feed and hungry the next! So you are not neccesarily feeding them as often as it looks, because they sleep through quite a few of your checks on them/aren't interested when you wake them up)  That day (2nd day) I would feed them before and after milking, then at lunch, then before and after pm milking with a check and possible feed around 10pm if they wanted it.

The day after, (3rd day) 6am, then I'd do milking and then move them with mum down to the goat yard after another feed. They then stay in the goat yard and get one feed at lunch time, then when I do evening milking I bring them and their mum into the milking shed first and feed them, and keep a bit of milk from their mum and see if they want that after I have finished milking. This day I would normally do a late check, but probably not feed.

The next day (4th day) they get fed 7-7:30am, at the start of the milking, and I keep some milk for them at the end of the milking. This day, if they are large and healthy and zooming around, they might go out with the does and may or may not get a lunch feed if they are big and strong and out with their mum. If they are small or it is hot, I would keep them in this day and give them a lunch feed and the start and end of milking feeds.

The 5th day they are almost always out with the herd and their mum if they aren't drinking off her - otherwise, I may put an udder-cover on her or lock them up in the goat yard and let them mum out, and they would get a lunch-time feed. By a week old they are on two feeds a day - morning and evening milking, occasionally they will get some at the start and end of milking, but normally they are happily filling up at the start of milking and don't need/want another one an hour later - plus they are getting hay and grain.

With amounts, by the third or fourth day I am rationing them to how much their mum is making and their size - quads from a 4 litre a day doe get from .7 a day for the miniscule runt, to 1.2-1.3 litres for the monster kid by the time they are several days old. With normal kids though, they are normally on 1-1.5 litres a day by a week old, and that much can normally be supplied by their own mums. (so .5-.75 a feed, two feeds a day, past three days old)
One to two days old though, kids fed their own mum's colostrum and milk, and therefore with a healthy digestion, can normally safely drink as much as they want. When they pop their mouths off the bottle and wobble around to find a spot to sleep, they are full enough, or sometimes with a 'guts' of a kid, just make sure it's sides don't bulge out more than comfortably full, slightly rounded, before you say 'no more'.